Boling: Simple twist of Red Bryant's knee greased Seahawks' slide
DAVE BOLING; STAFF WRITER
RENTON – Sometimes you don’t really know who your most valuable player is until he’s gone.
Defensive end Red Bryant can be seen on occasion at Seahawks team headquarters, recovering from surgery to repair the knee injury that sidelined him on Halloween.
At the time of his injury, he was the primary stabilizing force on a unit that was ranked second in the NFL in rush defense, and 19th overall.
Since he was helped off the field in that game against Oakland, the Hawks have lost five of seven games (by a stunningly lopsided average of 25 points) and their rankings have nose-dived to 20th against the run and 31st overall.
Only the Washington Redskins are worse than the Seahawks on defense.
It’s hard to believe that Bryant, who had been a reserve defensive tackle until this season, could make that much difference, but it is among the many curious elements to recent developments with this team.
We may credit the Seahawks defense for continuing to play with obvious effort and intensity despite being well out of the game on Sunday against the 49ers. But that makes you wonder how a team could play that hard and get so little accomplished.
We may credit them with what appeared to be a reasonable degree of assignment correctness in the game ... but that makes their physical shortcomings all the more obvious.
And it is a unit that supposedly is improved with the arrival of big-play guys, but it was the 49ers who got fat on big plays against the Seahawks’ break-but-don’t-bend defense.
It wasn’t so much that the 49ers converted seven of 17 third-down situations, it was that they averaged 26 yards on those conversions. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said that performance on third downs has been a specific point of emphasis, and it has been one of the consistent factors in Seahawks wins and losses all season.
“The explosive plays (by the 49ers) came on third down, so it was a double-whammy,” Bradley said after practice Wednesday. “Not only did we not get off the field on third downs, but that’s where the explosive plays showed up. So we just talked to our guys about it again and said, ‘Hey, the consistency – if you’re out there 59 plays, you can’t have 52 good ones and seven bad. We’ve got to be consistent.’ ”
Former Seahawks coach Chuck Knox used to call them “affordable plays” – those four or five plays a game that you can’t afford to be beaten on. The Hawks couldn’t afford any of them..
Coach Pete Carroll likewise pointed to “four major plays in the game when we didn’t make the tackles we were supposed to make,” as the key to the loss Sunday.
“It shows the margin of error and how critical it is,” Carroll said.
“Yeah, we just didn’t finish (tackles),” Bradley said. “We know that there’s going to be times when there’s going to be missed tackles, but we harp on it. ... There’s got to be 10 guys getting to the ball. They’re going to convert on some third downs, but you’ve got to have guys there to cap off and keep it from turning into explosive plays.”
The Seahawks had a few bright spots. Second-year linebacker Aaron Curry, whose play has been mostly spotty and generally below expectations for a player taken with the fourth pick of the 2009 draft, had one of his best performances, playing aggressively with eight tackles and a sack.
And end Chris Clemons continues to be the most consistently dependable defender, having upped his sacks total to 10 with admirable energy and effort.
But it is in keeping with the theme of irony that on one play in the Oakland game, when Clemons was hustling in to make a play, that he accidentally struck Bryant and caused the injury that seemingly triggered the defense’s downfall.
It’s been that kind of a season.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com